THREE birdies in an hour at the 18th hole handed South African George Coetzee his third European Tour title at the Mauritius Open on Sunday afternoon.
With a one-shot buffer following the third round, Coetzee carded a 2-under 69 to be locked in a playoff with Dane Thorbjorn Olesen, who was already in the clubhouse at 13-under after a final round 68.
Both players birdied the first playoff hole, with Coetzee’s long eagle putt banging into the back of the cup but failing to drop in for the win.
“I would’ve loved it if that had gone in,” Coetzee said after the win.
“Obviously still happy that I won but to finish it in that style would’ve been nice.”
But it was Olesen’s tee shot on the second sudden death hole that was his ultimate undoing.
Coetzee again bombed a driver into perfect position on the right-hand side of the fairway, while Olesen dragged a 3-wood into the left fairway bunker that forced him to lay up.
“It’s difficult to play that 18th with a three wood, but I’ve been hitting my driver pretty badly, so I had to,” Olesen said.
The 28-year old South African would not be denied, coolly knocking a mid iron onto the green before two-putting for birdie, to win his third title in Africa.
His previous two wins came in his home country, at the Tshwane Open in March this year and in February 2014 at the Joburg Open.
“All in all I’m just happy the job’s done, it doesn’t matter how many holes it takes,” Coetzee said.
“Thorbjorn did unbelievably well to put the pressure on me the whole day and I had to actually work in the end to catch him.”
He entered as the highest-ranked player in this week’s field at 63, but with the win rises to 50th on the Official World Golf rankings.
The 25-year old Dane, who has been out for three months following hand surgery, made a late charge to take the lead from Coetzee with only a couple of holes remaining.
Olesen’s wonderful approach to the tough 17th resulted in a birdie and took him to 13-under and the outright lead, but a long birdie try on the par-5 18th sailed by to keep Coetzee in it.
“As we walked up, I saw that my name was not at the top [of the leaderboard], and I told Allen ‘I can’t believe it but he birdied 17’,” Coetzee said.
“I thought to myself, I must just give myself a good opportunity at an eagle on the 18th hole, hopefully he doesn’t birdie it, and I’ll have a chance.
“I’m happy to have pulled through it and posted a good number.”
Coetzee also had an eagle putt on his 72nd hole to win the tournament, but it stalled inches short of the hole, taking him into the playoff with the Dane.
Coetzee’s final round got off to a flying start, with birdies on the second, third and fifth holes.
Olesen was as many as four strokes back of Coetzee at that point, but bounced back and by the ninth hole, scores were level at 13-under.
The young Dane was gracious in defeat and glad to be back on tour after his layoff.
“George hit some great shots there in the play-off to get two birdies, as it’s not an easy hole, so big congratulations to him and he’s played really well,” Olesen said.
“It’s disappointing, of course, when you are in a play-off and you don’t win.”
The European Tour continues this week with the Open de Espana in Barcelona, Spain.
AFRASIA BANK MAURITIUS OPEN LEADERBOARD
* won on second playoff hole.
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